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Cancer Is a Bitch: (Or, I'd Rather Be Having a Midlife Crisis)
     

Cancer Is a Bitch: (Or, I'd Rather Be Having a Midlife Crisis)

by Gail Konop Baker
 

“I want to be brave. I want to be big. I want to be gracious and cool. I want to be the Audrey Hepburn of cancer…”

Gail Konop Baker was a runner, yoga practitioner, and lifelong subscriber to Prevention magazine. As her forty-sixth birthday approached, she looked forward to a time when she could at last take a deep breath, with

Overview

“I want to be brave. I want to be big. I want to be gracious and cool. I want to be the Audrey Hepburn of cancer…”

Gail Konop Baker was a runner, yoga practitioner, and lifelong subscriber to Prevention magazine. As her forty-sixth birthday approached, she looked forward to a time when she could at last take a deep breath, with one child heading off to college and the other two busy with their lives. She finally felt as if she was getting her life back.

Then, right before Valentine’s Day 2006, she heard the words that would forever change her: Just to be safe, I think we should biopsy.

It was the beginning of her year-long struggle with breast cancer and its fallout—one that would upstage any midlife crisis she’d fretted was waiting in the wings. “I want to feel bad about my neck. I do,” she writes. “But I feel bad I may not ever get to feel bad about my neck.” Gail was suddenly faced with the truth that awaits us all—this was her life, and she would do anything to hold on to it. As a doctor’s wife, she knew more than she should about her diagnosis and treatment. As a mother, she found unbearable the idea of not being there for the next birthday, next graduation, next anything. And as a woman who’d put her dreams on hold for years, she was determined to make every minute count.

But Cancer Is a Bitch is about much more than the “C” word; it's about the outrageous challenges of marriage, the joys and unpredictability of motherhood, about figuring out what it is you want to do with your life, about wanting to live now.

Funny, raw, and moving, this story will resonate with every mother and wife, and with anyone who has been affected by cancer. It is one woman’s unforgettable, beautifully told account of juggling midlife and motherhood with a rogue boob—and, ultimately, triumphing.
 

Editorial Reviews

Approaching midlife, Gail Konop Baker hadn't really imagined that she would be confronted by anything more irksome than menopause, aches and pains, and, eventually, the quiet of an empty nest. Instead, this runner, mother of three, and physician wife got hit by breast cancer. Despite that blow, Gail's spirit (and ambitions) remained buoyant. As she wrote on her blog, "I want to be brave. I want to be big. I want to be gracious and cool. I want to be the Audrey Hepburn of cancer." And in this endearing, ebullient memoir, she succeeds.
Publishers Weekly

Baker, a former columnist for the online magazine Literary Mama living in Madison, Wis., is busy on her novel-with a protagonist she happens to have diagnosed with breast cancer-when real life intervenes. Shocked by a diagnosis of breast cancer herself, the 45-year-old mother of three begins a yearlong struggle to combat and comprehend the turn her life has taken. Baker and her radiologist husband trek to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Though her cancer has not metastasized and she's spared chemotherapy and radiation, Baker nevertheless faces the fear that the disease may return. As Baker grapples with the demands of motherhood and marriage, she also begins a relentless search to find the cause of her disease and head off its recurrence in the future-turning to organic foods, whipping up batches of organic face creams in her kitchen and avoiding electromagnetic fields. In this heartfelt memoir, Baker proves to be both humorous (she compares waiting for her follow-up mammogram results to a "call back" for an acting audition) and compassionate, as when a friend is diagnosed with colon cancer. (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Wannabe author Baker wrote a novel about a woman who develops breast cancer. Shortly thereafter, the 45-year-old Wisconsin wife and mother was diagnosed with DCIS and underwent a lumpectomy. Cutting, crafty, and clearly a woman on a mission, Baker takes us along as her life turns upside down in so many ways. No graphic treatment specifics here, but an honest (and very funny, for the most part) approach to breast cancer. For all patient health collections.


—Bette-Lee Fox
Kirkus Reviews
You-are-there account of the author's diagnosis, surgery and much more. After her annual mammogram, Baker's radiologist recommended a biopsy, which confirmed that she had intermediate-grade cancer. Readers will sympathize and share her pre-op fears and agonize with her during the wait for the post-op pathology phone call (taken by her husband, a radiologist). The news was good: Her cancer had been removed in situ, wasn't invasive and other suspicious sites tested negative. Regular follow-up and watchful waiting were necessary; she didn't require chemotherapy or radiation treatment, but Tamoxifen could lower her risk for recurrence by half. Baker opted for the drug (which has its own risks) and also went to the Mayo Clinic for further diagnosis and treatment. Most of the text, however, is devoted to the roots of her soul-searching, guilt-ridden persona. We learn that the Jewish author is a would-be novelist married to a Dartmouth-educated Protestant preppy, living comfortably in Madison, Wis., with two daughters and a son. We hear about her parents' divorce, her mother's breakdown, her brother's suicide, her hostile stepmother. Baker dwells on past loves and current sex, marital ups and downs, her girlfriends and any number of day-to-day glad or sad events, including others' cancer deaths. Some of this is funny, as when the author acknowledges her obsession with her breasts. But much of it is sad, particularly Baker's voicing of the classic self-blaming cancer questions: What did I do wrong? Why me? Readers will weary of her zealous conviction that cancer can be staved off by leading the perfect life: keeping up with yoga, praying, marathon running, going "green," eating organic-evenmaking one's own cosmetics. Her follow-up mammogram was negative, but that doesn't make this self-indulgent narrative particularly useful to those recently diagnosed with cancer seeking wisdom and guidance. More a let-it-all-hang-out gusher of prose than a cancer memoir.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780738211626
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
09/22/2008
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Gail Konop Baker is an award-winning writer and essayist. A former columnist at Literary Mama, is a regular contributor to thedebutanteball.com. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her family. Visit her Web site at www.gailkonopbaker.com.

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